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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

An Easy Conscience

Aidan O’Malley

Religion, Hubert Butler believed, should be a place of truth-telling rather than a mere symbol of decorousness and respectability. Croatia’s Cardinal Stepinac felt he had nothing to be ashamed of in his record on the forcible conversion of orthodox Serbs during World War Two. Butler disagreed.

Rediscovered Territory

Rediscovered Territory

Tim Groenland

In a reimagined continuation of the Huckleberry Finn story, Huck is a reluctant witness to the march of ‘sivilization’ as it rampages across America. His relentlessly unheroic perspective and humanitarian pragmatism offer a partial antidote to the warlike machinations of his compatriots.

Instead of Blood

Instead of Blood

Ian Doherty

In Northern Ireland in 1972, 470 people were killed, 1,853 bombs were planted and 18,819 kilos of explosives found. Some thought a United Ireland was close, others a civil war. At the same time the Dublin and London governments were working diligently with moderate politicians for a settlement.



Seamus Deane

Two figures dominate in Breandán Mac Suibhne’s history of a Donegal community, one an informer, the other one of the hard-faced men who did well out of the Famine. Together they help ruin the community, transforming it into a world stripped of people and of communal ethics.


Fortune’s Fools

Tom Hennigan

Romans thought the bounty the goddess Fortuna had provided would last forever, that their empire was the natural culmination of human civilisation. But their world, built on shifting climatic and epidemiological foundations, was to become a victim of its own success.


Fíon Spáinneach

Vincent Morley

The animosity between the smuggler Murtaí Óg Ó Súilleabháin and John Puxley, both of whom died violently in the 1750s, was once seen as symptomatic of wider societal divisions. But in fact Puxley, though employed as a revenue officer, had had a notable career in smuggling too.


Between Memory and Hope

Andreas Hess

America’s founding generation, it has been said, was divided between the party of memory and that of hope, between those who saw the need for periodic revolution to start the world anew and those who wished to avoid the cruelty and violence of the Old World that had been left behind.


A Gift of Cleverness

Michael Hinds

In 1931 William Empson arrived to teach at the Imperial University of Tokyo. Unable to speak Japanese and undoubtedly intimidated by officialdom, he turned inward instead, remarking all sorts of new energies in language, life and art and finding things to live by and live for.


Crème de la Crème

Mary Jones

A third of Britain’s land still belongs to her aristocracy, nearly half of Scotland is in the hands of 432 individuals and companies and more than a quarter of large Scottish estates are held by aristocratic families. As an impressive new polemic shows, it has always been this way.


Death and Denial

Jon Smith

The Irish make death an occasion, surrounding it with ritual and sociability; in England funerals are private, almost furtive, affairs. But perhaps both approaches, behind the obvious differences, have something major in common, the perceived need to ‘deal with’ death, to put it in its box.


Strangers in a Strange Land

George O’Brien

Emigration into postwar Britain was encouraged, but the only plan was to secure bodies for no-collar jobs (Irish labourers, Punjabi foundry workers) or to maintain essential services (Barbadians for the buses, Irish women for nursing). It was bodies that were needed, not people.


Destined for Radicalism

Sheena Wilkinson

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was a suffragette and a Sinn Féiner, and in that order. For her, national sovereignty did not overshadow other concerns and, unlike Constance Markievicz, she never considered female suffrage secondary to the struggle for Irish independence.


Van The Youth

David Blake Knox

The postwar decades in Northern Ireland were ones of modest prosperity, and the bitter conflict that had marked the birth of the state seemed on its way to becoming memory. For some – mainly Protestants ‑ the 1950s and early 60s have the innocence and charm of a lost Eden.


Return of the Nativist

Bryan Fanning

The new nativism claims to be based on common-sense solidarity with fellow citizens. It differs from white nationalism and seems almost to wish to promote a kind of cohesion among Britain’s current ethnically diverse population by uniting it against new immigrants. 


Our Stuff Good, Your Stuff Bad

Fergus O’Donoghue

The differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs have been exploited by secular rulers for their own gain and have led to wars and much bloodshed. Perhaps the greatest problem has been the insistence of secular authorities on imposing uniformity of faith in their territories.


A Life Composed

Patricia Craig

Celebrated biographer Claire Tomalin tackles the subject of her own life with detachment and calm. Her concise and slightly formal prose strikes the right note to deal with sorrows and adversities, though occasionally one could wish for just a little idiosyncrasy or waywardness.


Gentrifying Hegel

Sean Sheehan

It is quite astonishing that there is no reference to Slavoj Žižek in a massive new volume which calls itself a handbook to Hegel. While the Slovenian philosopher can be challenging, his work reaches parts of Hegel that are not found or given a tamer inflection in most other commentaries.


Richard Murphy 1927-2018

Benjamin Keatinge

With the death of Richard Murphy on January 30th, 2018, Ireland lost one of its greatest poets, the creator, in the words of fellow practitioner Peter Sirr, of ‘unforgettable music’.


Becoming the Stranger

Julia O’Mahony

As an editor, Toni Morrison resisted the dictum that one cannot “sell books on both sides of the street”. As a novelist, she attempts to write non-colourist literature about black people, to resist the dehumanising effect of the fetishisation of race.


An Eye for the Gewgaws

Harry Clifton

Dennis O’Driscoll was his generation’s leading man of letters. He assimilated the mode and manner of translated Eastern European poetry and applied it to the domestic and professional realities of Ireland. In his finest poems, the decadence and morbidity of the age is lifted beyond itself.


Facts, After-facts and Fakes

Mary O’Donnell

Tara Bergin’s second collection displays an intellectually adroit interplay between disciplines not often evident in Anglophone poetry. Bergin excels at seeing patterns and connections; her poems challenge us to reconsider everything, trust nothing, and treat the past as a series of riddles.


Life As It Flees

Gerard Dawe

A sense of pleasure and ‘revels’ plays through much of Thom Gunn’s poetry, from the famous image of the motorcyclist in ‘On the Move’ to Elvis Presley’s sexuality. While sex, drugs and rock and roll all feature in Selected Poems, there really isn’t a sense of excess.


Against Pure Wool

Maurice Earls

In the midst of the January Uprising of 1863 in Poland, a Dublin grocer, Patrick McCabe Fay, donated money to a fund in support of the Polish rebels, explaining that it was only right that the “Poland of the West” come to the aid of “her sister of the East”.


Nicola Gordon Bowe (1948-2018)

Catherine Marshall,

Nicola Gordon Bowe, who died suddenly last month and was an expert on the work of stained glass artists Harry Clarke and Wilhelmina Geddes. She was the pioneer writer who fought to have craft and design recognised intellectually as operating on an equal footing with the fine arts.


Let Them Have It

Patrick Claffey

You’ve either got or you haven’t got style. AA Gill had it in spades, but he also had substance, convictions, passion and a devil-may-care attitude to the proprieties that often got him into trouble with the many people he offended.


Kith and Kine

Gerard Murphy

A compendious work on the ostensibly obscure and specialist subject of the origins of cattle breeds manages to incorporate a good deal of fascinating human history over several millennia, recalling in the process the literary work of Herman Melville or WG Sebald.


Homing Signals

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

Leontia Flynn’s latest collection, which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize, gives shape to the ‘music of words’ that reverberates within our quotidian existence, channelling it internally and then broadcasting it back to the outside world in unexpected forms.


Silvery Images

Alexander Runchman

Nerys Williams’s new collection is much concerned with language, and while it disparages ‘silver tongues’ it recognises that the value of language and its ‘half-lit words’ may lie in the uncertainty of its interpretation, in its meaning different things to different audiences.



Mary O’Donnell

Although Annemarie Ní Churreáin’s poems often centre on ‘subjects’ and ‘issues’, the strength of her work derives from a perceived absence of agenda. There may well be an agenda, but thanks to poetic language true to its task, we believe in these poems as poetry.


Making a History of the Homeplace

Breandán Mac Suibhne

An extract from ‘The End of Outrage’, an intimate history of a small southwest Donegal community around the time of the Famine which focuses not on the relations between the rich and the poor but between poor families themselves, land, inheritance and emigration.


Poetry, Exile, Homecoming

Keith Payne

After much wandering, there is a sense of homecoming in Michael O’Loughlin’s later poems, but more the poet coming home to himself than any facile notion of nationhood. This is a collection which places O’Loughlin deservedly within the canon of Irish poetry.


A Great Delight, A Little Load

Carlo Gébler

Peter Fallon’s version of the Greek poet Hesiod’s best-known work avoids the traps of exaggerated fidelity to ancient poetic protocol and wilful anachronism. There is also modesty in his practice: this is about Hesiod, and admiration of what Fallon can do is not allowed to get in the way.


Getting to Grey

Liam Hennessy

Bipolar disorder has been explained as an attempt to create a world in which everything is either black or white. The illness can only be treated, it is suggested, when the important third element is introduced.


Astonished at Everything

Peter Sirr

Generosity and largeness of vision seem to meet happily in the poems of Uruguayan-French writer Jules Supervielle, which seem to cover great distances in short spaces.


All or Nothing

Joschka Fischer

Those Germans who argue so vehemently against a so-called transfer union should realise that the EU has always been such a union. France got the CAP for its large rural economy and Germany the common market for its strong industry. Little has changed since.


Birds, beasts and flowers

Gerald Dawe

DH Lawrence’s poetry offers a record of the powerful current of physical pleasure, the elusive joy of witnessing that which is different, and the kind of opinionated prickliness when things are not what they seem to be or should be.


The Stilled World

Nicola Gordon Bowe

Unsentimental, sparing and unspecific, the painter Patrick Pye has sought figurative images to represent symbolically “the archetypes of our humanity” depicted in an alternative universe where expiation has been achieved.


Pierre Milza, historian: 1932-2018

Pierre Milza was a specialist in the history of fascism, which he saw as a distinct form of political extremism and mass mobilisation, largely confined to a particular time and a particular set of circumstances.


The human right to claptrap

If we want children to be told only things that are true, we have a lot of work ahead of us, particularly at this time of year. But can we find sufficient sustenance, as children or as adults, in a diet that confines our imaginations to what is demonstrably verifiable?


A Servant of the State

Frank Callanan spoke recently in commemoration of the state’s first minister for justice, Kevin O’Higgins, who was murdered in 1927 by rogue members of the IRA and the dominant theme of whose career was the primacy of civil government.


The Toad Work

The discovery of agriculture was the original curse that turned humanity away from its idyllic hunter-gatherer existence. No one is quite sure how it got started. Was it a series of unfortunate accidents or perhaps the work of some obsessive Mark Zuckerberg type?


A Half-National Treasure

Jonathan Swift is regarded with some pride as being one of the most notable of Ireland’s long line of great writers. The man himself however would have preferred to have been considered an Englishman – though he did the Irish people some service.


Art For All

In a long career as art historian and arts administrator, Kenneth Clark exhibited a constant commitment to the idea that ‘high culture’ should be available to the widest possible audience. His traditionalist approach did not please everyone, but that did not faze him in the slightest.


Stroke City

Ireland’s fifth-largest city has many attractions – a broad river, a beautiful natural situation enclosed by hills, a resilient and humorous population, and two names, one for each section of the community.


Sparks from the Comet

Dubliners on Culture Night this year heard a talk about one of the most eminent Dublin newspapers of the early nineteenth century, delivered in the very heart of what was then the city's newspaper and publishing district.


Will There Be Blood?

Most of us assume that blood will always be available for us should we need it in transfusion. But in Ireland the only source is from volunteers, who donate out of altruism, receiving nothing in return except perhaps a 'warm glow'.


The Proust of Ormiston Crescent

In 1912, EM Forster travelled to Belfast to meet Forrest Reid, whose novel ‘The Bracknels’ he had greatly admired. The two men were to become lifelong friends. On Reid’s death in 1947, Forster wrote that he was the most important man in Belfast, ‘though Belfast knew him not’.


John Ashbery: The Syntax of Time

What marked John Ashbery out from most of his contemporaries was his extraordinary immersion in syntax as the prime organising force of his verse. Many readers noted the parallels between his mature writings and the late novels of Henry James.


Socrates and 'O Jogo Bonito'

The Brazilian footballer - and medical doctor - Sócrates was a hero not just on the pitch but off, and his courageous engagements with politics in a dark era offer a good introduction to the country's recent history.


Ivan Illich: An Exchange

David Cayley takes issue with a review of a book on the philosopher Ivan Illich. Seamus O’Mahony, the author of the review, responds to the criticism.


The First Irexit

In 1922 Southern Irish unionists saw themselves as a cultured, cosmopolitan people, repositories of uprightness and fair dealing, bearers of values which could well be smothered by superstition, greed and chicanery should Ireland leave the United Kingdom.


A European at Eighty

The historian Peter Burke has devoted his life to scholarly synthesis, specialising in short, densely argued and concise books which range across borders, both geographical and academic.


It's wonderful to be here

Philip Larkin dated the sexual revolution to 1963 and the Beatles' first LP. Perhaps, but the album that came along fifty years ago this month was revolutionary in more than one sense.


From ‘How’ to ‘What’ in Politics

Political debate in Ireland is conducted at a juvenile level of jeer and insult which bores the public even more than it does the TDs themselves. Greater civility is required, but an exploration of what shared norms as a society we wish to live by would also be beneficial.

New Books

Irish Literature

Featuring a full chapter extract from The Abode of Fancy by Sam Coll and a poem from Paula Meehan's new collection, Geomantic.


World Literature

Featuring 2016 Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty's The Sellout.


Irish History & Politics

Featuring Hell at the Gates, in which Brian Cowen, the late Brian Lenihan, Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin, Mary Harney and many others recount in their own words the inside story behind the government's infamous bailout.


World History & Politics

Featuring Final Solution, David Cesarani's sweeping reappraisal challenging the accepted explanations for the anti-Jewish politics of Nazi Germany.


Irish Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Paul Howard's I Read the News Today, Oh Boy, the extraordinary story of the young Irishman who was immortalized for ever in the opening lines of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.


World Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin, an exploration of the lyrics and tunes that have won Clive James and his musical partner, Pete Atkin, a fanatical cult following.


Ireland 1912 - 1922

Featuring Wherever the Firing Line Extends, Ronan McGreevey's study of the places where the Irish made their mark in World War I and are remembered in the monuments, cemeteries and landscapes of France and Flanders.


More New Books ...